United States Assistance Policy in Africa: Exceptional Power, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

United States Assistance Policy in Africa

Exceptional Power, 1st Edition

By Shai A. Divon, Bill Derman


322 pages | 2 B/W Illus.

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From the end of WWII to the end of the Obama administration, development assistance in Africa has been viewed as an essential instrument of US foreign policy. Although many would characterise it as a form of aid aimed at enhancing the lives of those in the developing world, it can also be viewed as a tool for advancing US national security objectives.  

Using a theoretical framework based on 'power', United States Assistance Policy in Africa examines the American assistance discourse, its formation and justification in relation to historical contexts, and its operation on the African continent. Beginning with a problematisation of development as a concept that structures hierarchies between groups of people, the book highlights how cultural, political and economic conceptions influence the American assistance discourse. The book further highlights the relationship between American national security and its assistance policy in Africa during the Cold War, the post-Cold War, and the post-9/11 contexts.

This book will be of great interest to students and scholars of Development Studies, Political Science and International Relations with particular interest in US foreign policy, USAID and/or African Studies.


"In this important contribution to development and foreign policy literature, the authors use Africa as a lens to illuminate the ways in which development assistance has served as an instrument of American power, promoting U.S. geopolitical and economic interests from the Cold War to the war on terror." – Elizabeth Schmidt, Loyola University Maryland, USA

"A thought-provoking excavation of the official discourse of international development. By regarding aid as a tool of power, Divon and Derman construct a critical narrative that contrasts the needs of ordinary Africans with interests embedded in US foreign policy over the years. Worth reading."Michael Bratton, University Distinguished Professor of Political Science and African Studies, Michigan State University, USA

"This book studies American policies towards Africa from WWII to the present day. It does so by employing an understanding of power transcending a simplistic interpretation. As policies empowered some groups and changed local dynamics, aid was an extremely important tool in wielding influence. A great book." – Stig Jarle Hansen, Research Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University, USA

"This book is an always readable and provocative deconstruction of American foreign aid, and the interests and ideologies that have long supported it." –Nicolas van de Walle, Maxwell M. Upson Professor of Government, Cornell University, USA

"Analyzing the exercise of American power in Africa through U.S. development co-operation, this book illuminates the interests and ideologies behind it. Showing how U.S. administrations (1946-2016) have viewed as well as framed the African issues that confronted them, this book is recommended to all those studying great power politics and development theory." Morten Bøås, Research Professor, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI) Oslo, Norway.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction - Power rules

Chapter 2. Words of power – Power of words

Chapter 3. Tools of power: the American discourse

Chapter 4. US policy in Africa and the Cold War

Chapter 5. US policy in Africa and the ‘new world order’

Chapter 6. The arc of instability: US policy in Africa after September 11

Chapter 7. Explaining assistance as power projection

About the Authors

Shai A. Divon is a post-doctoral fellow at the Department of International Environment and Development Studies, Faculty of Landscape and Society at the Norwegian University of the Life Sciences, Norway. He has extensive military and security experience and has worked and carried out research in Africa, Asia, the United States and the Middle East.

Bill Derman is Professor Emeritus at the Department of International Environment and Development Studies, Faculty of Landscape and Society at the Norwegian University of the Life Sciences, Norway and also at the Department of Anthropology, Michigan State University, USA.

About the Series

Routledge Explorations in Development Studies

The series features innovative and original research at the regional and global scale. Its scope extends to scholarly works that take an interdisciplinary and comparative approach.

In terms of theory and method, rather than basing itself on any one orthodoxy, the series draws broadly on the tool kit of the social sciences in general, emphasizing comparison, the analysis of the structure and processes, and the application of qualitative and quantitative methods.

The series welcomes submissions from established authors in the field as well as from junior authors. To submit proposals, please contact the Development Studies Editor, Helena Hurd ([email protected]).

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Human Geography
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Developing Countries
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Regional Studies